Sandja Brügmann is one of the leading voices within sustainable social-impact change and conscious leadership. Aside from this conversation, Sandja is also sharing her perspectives with us as part of Leading Human’s brain trust. 

What is the core of conscious capitalism?

– Humans are destroying themselves by how we are consuming, a big part of this is founded in how business is being conducted.

– The economic model builds on homo economicus, the rational man. But mankind is not rational. We are driven by our feelings, often unconsciously driven by fear. Our world is currently built on a foundation which is untrue.

– As long as we are at a lower level of consciousness, we will be in a stage of survival with a focus on ‘me’ and we will not be capable of making long-term, sustainable decisions. Conscious leaders are long-term oriented.

– People, planet and profit must be equally weighted. Through scalability and profits, a purpose driven business is able to make a larger positive impact within society and ensure sustainaed human & environmental wellbeing.

How do leaders motivate others?

– Upcoming talent is increasingly driven by values aligned work, which provides a deeper sense of purpose and meaningfulness. Leaders that do not naturally conform business in this way will therefore be unable to attract talent and sustain customers – they will either be driven out, or be forced to change due to economic pressure. I recommend changing on one’s own volution sooner than later – as change due to economic & business challenges is always a tougher change process.

– The Danish society is hindered by ‘fingerpointers’; “you might do this thing well, but look at all the things you are doing wrong”. No business, no leader is perfect – it’s inherent in us all that we are fallible. The sooner we can embrace this imperfection, the sooner we can move into a mindset to lift each other up.

– The best thing you can do as a leader is to work on yourself. When you have healed yourself, you will be able to see yourself in other people and embrace imperfections in others. Then you will show compassion, this generates psychological safety and trust, and this is when others will willingly choose to follow your vision.

How do leaders motivate themselves?

– A lot of top leaders approach me because of a hunger. They are usually highly intelligent people and they feel like they are missing something – a deeper meaning with life, which we somehow believed we could get at the top of the business ladder. Just to find out, it’s not there. It is important to spend your life on making a difference. Ask yourself, where do I come alive. How and where can I make a difference?

– We must focus on eudemonic happiness rather than hedonic happiness. Doing so will provide us with a deep-lying contentment from having based our lives on something meaningful rather than short spikes of happiness from buying an expensive car, a new house or getting a promotion or a bonus.

Is conscious leadership soft?

– To be vulnerable is an extreme strength. When you reach your vulnerability, you will accept yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses. However, a traditional business (wo)man will see vulnerability as a weakness, because they are not yet in touch with their own humanity – thus also the disregard for nature. The ones that will change our system must therefore be both vulnerable, shame resilient and non-affected by others’ judgements.

– 20 years ago, when I started working with sustainability, it was considered a non-sensical hippie idea. Today it’s mainstream thinking. Conscious leadership is the next wave of 360 degree sustainability understanding and is on this same trajectory. By mainstream business leaders it’s considered a non-sensical hippie idea, and in 10-15 years, it will be the norm – and we will look back and realize just how irrational and irresponsible we used to behave.